I have so often announced my retirement from public life that nobody believes me anymore - not even my closest advisors or friends, it seems. Every time some so-called last event occurs that is considered so important that I am asked to come out of retirement just one more time. And so the life of a retired old man trickles on and on.
This is one event, though, to which I come out of retirement with great enthusiasm, joy and gratitude. To say a few words here today is not an obligation or an imposition. I would even have felt slighted if this occasion were to proceed without me being invited to at least attend. The two men whose lives you commemorate here today were so centrally formative to and in my life. To finally retire without paying them the tribute and respect of my presence here would have made my retirement undeserved.
In this more intimate gathering of friends and comrades there will be understanding if I really only say a very few words.
What Yusuf and Bram have meant in my life, in our struggle for liberation and in laying the foundations for our democracy is well-known to all patriots. I have written and spoken extensively about their respective roles and my appreciation of them.
I just wish to make two brief points today.
The first is to thank the families of Yusuf and Bram for allowing them to play the roles they did. While in prison I often reflected upon the things one neglected and omitted. I always then thought about the people I neglected to thank and pay tribute to for what they meant in one’s life. And quite often one neglected the families and loved ones of those with whom you were associated in struggle.
I hope that I have in the years since my release started to pay back that debt to the Cachalia and Fischer families. They, Yusuf and Bram, have become so much symbols and icons of our national life that in again paying tribute to the families I am recognizing also the heroism of all the families of our struggle, so nobly and heroically symbolized by the Cachalias and Fischers.
The second point I wish to leave with you is one pointing to our future.
It is once again well documented what key roles these two men played in moving me, personally, and our movement towards the inclusive non-racialism it now represents. This they did not through words only but in the heat of struggle and without fear of sacrifice.
I hope that our movement will always hold that commitment to non-racialism dear in its thoughts, policies and actions. It is that commitment, even in circumstances where we could have been pardoned for deviating from it, that amongst other things earned us the respect of the world.
It is similarly my wish that the Cachalias and Fischers of our own times will multiply as we all join to build and develop the South Africa that belongs to all who live in it.
Yusuf and Bram, my old friends and comrades, will understand that the words of an old man become brief. But I am certain that they know what is in my heart today.
And as I now return to retirement: thank you all for being here to pay tribute to two outstanding South African heroes.
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